Participative Management

Participative management definition - toolshero

This article provides a practical explanation of Participative Management. Participative Management is a management tool that offers opportunities to all employees to contribute to policy and decision making at work that helps achieve business objectives and promotes job satisfaction.

The aim is stimulating engagement of stakeholders on all levels of an organisation and get their input for problem analysis, strategy development, and solution implementation.

What is Participative Management?

Participative Management is also called Participatory Management. Employees are invited to take part in the organisation’s decision-making process by contributing to activities, such as setting objectives, determining work schedules, and offering suggestions. Other forms of participative management include increasing employees’ responsibilities (job expansion); the formation of self-directed teams, quality circles or committees for quality work; and asking for feedback through surveys. However, participative management is more than just letting employees have a say in decisions. It also means that management treats ideas and suggestions by staff with respect. The most extreme form of participative management is direct employee ownership of a company.

There are four processes that influence participation. These processes create employee engagement because they reach the lowest levels within the organisation. The more widespread these processes are, the higher employee engagement will be. The four processes include:

  1. Information exchange, aimed at keeping employees informed about how the company is performing financially.
  2. Training, whereby employee skill levels are improved leading to career opportunities that allow them to apply new skills to make effective decisions for the organisation as a whole.
  3. Decision making by employees, which can be implemented in different ways, from deciding working schedules to determining budgets or processes.
  4. Rewards, which should be linked to suggestions and ideas as well as performance.

Why Participative Management?

A participative management style offers several advantages for all layers of the organisation. By creating a sense of value within the company, participative management encourages a sense of pride and motivates employees to improve productivity and meet their targets. Employees who take part in company decisions feel like they are part of a team working together toward the same end. This increases their self-esteem and sense of creative satisfaction.

Managers who opt for a participative management style will notice that employees are more open to change than in situations in which they don’t have a say. Changes are implemented more effectively when employees can provide input and contribute to decision making. Their participation keeps employees in the loop about upcoming events, meaning they are aware of any potential changes facing the organisation. The organisation can then put itself into a proactive mode, rather than a reactive one, as managers will be able to quickly identify areas of concern and ask employees to come up with solutions.

Participation helps employees develop a more complete idea of the organisation. Through training, development opportunities, and sharing information, employees can acquire the conceptual skills necessary to become effective supervisors or even top-level managers. It also increases employee engagement within the organisation and makes them invested in the decisions they make.

Creativity and innovation are two important advantages of participative management. By enabling a diverse group of employees to make decisions, the whole organisation will benefit from the synergies resulting from a wider range of options. When all employees, rather than just managers or supervisors, are given the opportunity to contribute, it becomes more likely that a unique idea will be proposed.

From a business perspective, the use of a participative management approach creates loyal employees who are prepared to put time and effort into the company’s success. Employees often have innovative ideas for cost reduction and waste elimination, process streamlining, and improving customer satisfaction. This management style also creates more effective leaders on all levels. Leaders can encourage and supervise employees towards achieving company objectives using various global platforms. In addition, under a participative management structure, business operations often report increased productivity and improved performance on all staff levels.

Getting started with participative management

In order to shift from traditional management to participative management, an organisational consensus for cooperation is required, based on communication, inclusion, transparency, and development. Creating and maintaining adaptive ability for continuous problem solving with an emphasis on social and transformative learning through trust, lasting engagement, and relationship development are important factors that contribute to the overall success or failure of participative management. Stimulating a comfortable working environment by creating transparency and building new relationships supports broad participation in planning, implementation, and evaluations. This encourages diverse participation in managing expectations and actions with a collective understanding of the goals and results.

The only certainty when implementing this theory is uncertainty. Dealing with uncertainty has to be approached conceptually to reduce conflicts. Conflicts can result from problems that are caused by incorrect interpretations or a lack of clarity regarding communication or questions about values, relations, and goals.

Deliberative, collaboration-based, and consensus-driven approaches facilitate transformative learning because they include a range of viewpoints for optimising learning results. For instance, through the interaction of values, interests, and world views. This is also known as collaborative science or the consensus partnership method. The integration of this participative management approach facilitates shared learning and makes institutional and team development stronger through the contributions by individuals. Communicating values, creating a safe and comfortable working environment combined with a sincere and joint effort has to be the foundation of any organisation that wishes to implement participative management as a useful tool.

Some ways to realise Participatory Management:

  • Suggestion box
  • Participative strategic planning
  • Competition for ideas
  • Financial openness
  • Committees for specific tasks
  • Flexible schedule
  • Self-management

Implementing Participative Management

There is no specific participative management model. It requires that you know how your company works, what your people are thinking, what they want, and what they hope to change. It’s important to find out what their current primary motivations and concerns are.

The following steps can be used as a start. It’s important to adapt them to be useful in your specific situation.

Implementing participative management - toolshero

Step 1: Understand how your employees look at the current style of management

A good tool for this can be an organisational climate survey. If your run a small business, a very open meeting – perhaps even in a pub with a few beers – can be a great place to find out what everyone is thinking.

Step 2: Be more open about business information

Sharing results – and showing how each employee contributes to them – can help increase everyone’s sense of responsibility and collaboration.

Step 3: Involve your team with generating and implementing ideas

The more ideas you have that don’t just come from management, the more engaged employees will be. In order to achieve this, why not organise brainstorming sessions or regular meetings for exactly this purpose? This will encourage interested people to take on the challenge and participate.

Step 4: Know who is part of your team

Just having the most participative management doesn’t help you. Your managers need to know who they are working with. This is why it’s important to offer personal feedback based on behaviour and to make sure everyone has a personal development plan.

Step 5: Monitor the changes

Tracking the implementation of participative management is just as essential as its actual implementation. When you understand how different areas interact and how employees feel, this process can be taken to another level within your company.

You don’t have to implement all the above-mentioned steps at the same time. Base this on what and when your company requires something.

Now It’s Your Turn

What do you think? Are you familiar with the explanation of Participative Management, or do you have anything to add? In what situations do you think this management style would be effective? What do you believe are success factors that contribute to the practical application of this theory?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

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More information

  1. De Cuyper, P., Loutsch, V., Van Gyes, G., & Spineux, A. (2003). Participatief management en de sturing van verandering in de Belgische overheidssector. Case studies. Academia Press.
  2. De Moor, W. (1998). Arbeidsmotivatie als management-instrument. Bohn Stafleu van Loghum.
  3. Helmcamp, R. (2006) The Psychology of Participative Management With a Case Study from the Fort Worth State School
  4. Ridder, D., Mostert, E., Cernesson, F., & Harmony, C. T. (2005). Learning together to manage together: improving participation in water management. Germany: University of Osnabrück.
  5. Swearingen, M. H. (2017). Participative management: an analysis of its effect on productivity. Routledge.

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Jessie Sari
About the Author

Jessie Sari is a content writer at ToolsHero. Jessie studies Trade Management in Asia at the Hogeschool van Rotterdam. As part of her education, she focuses on building fundamental skills, including marketing, importing and exporting products and services in Asia, economy, finance, management, consultancy and project management.

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